Mr. Mom

For generations, gender roles within the family have been stationary: the father is the head of house and the breadwinner, and the mother raises the children. Many—if not most—women, upon becoming a mother, found themselves in that conventional category of “stay-at-home mom.” In the United States, however, this is changing. There is a new breed of parent in the U.S, one who challenges the traditional social covenant and acknowledged definition of family: stay-at-home dads. These men who undertake the majority of child-rearing responsibility shake the foundation of gender roles.

It is a long-standing belief that children need their mother close at hand, not their father; these stay-at-home fathers challenge that assumption. By taking on different roles within the family, stay-at-home dads have forced society to re-examine both its pre-existing gender roles and the mechanics of family life. Both Functionalist Theory and Cultural and Personality Theory offer insightful explanations towards the new popularity of “Mr. Mom.”

From a functionalist standpoint, a man undertaking the majority of child-rearing is a curious phenomenon. According to functionalist theory, every human on the planet has the same biological needs. It is the response to those biological needs—the resulting institutions, as it were—that define culture. Children require protection, education, sustenance, and comfort. From a biological standpoint, the mother is best suited to care for a child; this is due to the biological fact that mothers produce the most highly nutrient-rich food on the planet, breast milk. A father’s lack of breast milk, however, does not make him any less able to care for his child, particularly in this day and age. Society has had a nearly visceral reaction to the concept of stay-at-home fathers (hence the attempt at a derogatory nickname, “Mr. Mom.”); functionalist theory, however, explains that this should not be the case.

The culture and personality theory, however, focuses more on the reaction of society to these changing family roles. Culture and personality theory address a culture’s tendency to produce a favored personality type, to create set roles and set types that people must fit into. In American society, these familial roles find women as homemakers and men as breadwinners. What happens when these roles are switched? Society is almost comically confused that their general roles are not being filled, which in turn results in a general sense of unease whenever “Mr. Mom” comes up in conversation. Culture and personality theory explains that this unease is the result of predetermined cultural roles.
The modern idea of stay at home fathers has changed the understanding of family. Both Functionalist Theory and Culture and Personality Theory offer explanations as to why stay-at-home fatherhood seems so out of place in American society.

– Emerson C.

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63 Responses to Mr. Mom

  1. Megan Salzer says:

    I think this is a very interesting point of view on the social stigmas and norms created in American society in relation to who is deemed “preferable” to raise the children in a nuclear family. Growing up both my parents worked and I had/was raised by a couple fantastic nannies. I wonder what stigmas and norms would be apparent and called into question by American society today in relation to the cultural theory.

    • Steve Goddard says:

      Megan you bring up a great point about other dynamics related to this topic. I am curious what gender stigmas au pairs or nannies are given. Is it socially desirable to have a female nanny over a male? It seems as though this is the preferability in American culture. I’d be curious to see what direction this topic would take from a Feminist anthropological perspective.

      I really enjoyed the title of “Mr. Mom” and the topic of discussion. Applying the Functionalist and Culture & Personality perspectives did well to shed light to Mr. Mom’s relevance in American culture. This adaptation stemmed from biological needs, where the male is equally capable of child rearing is something untraditional, as you mentioned, and brings the nature vs. nurture argument into discussion. I wonder how children typically deal with this stereotype since it is still not necessarily considered “the norm”. Im also curious whether stay at home fathers feel that this prejudice is a difficult social hurdle. The fact that the Functionalist theory is synchronic makes it weak when changes occur throughout history, so as things change this perspective could become insufficient. Your introduction of the Culture & Personality theory helps explain this change and historical context, which gave a great wrap up to this idea of “Mr. Mom” in American culture. How would one be able to do fieldwork of a topic like this without interfering with the environment? Is that ever a possibility in fieldwork to not effect your surrounding environment?

      Good Job!

      • Alyssa says:

        Both Megan and Steve bring up really interesting points regarding who is a “preferable” care taker in contemporary American society. Steve, you brought up the question of whether having a female nanny is more socially desirable than a male one. I babysit all the time and am a nanny over the summer, so I am well aware of the gender bias in the profession. While there are considerably more woman nannies, au pairs and babysitters, I know many families that would prefer a male babysitter and would even pay them more. I have never contrasted that to the stigma associated with “Mr. Mom’s,” and I find it really interesting that male babysitters are so highly sought after while stay-at-home dad’s are often looked down upon. It makes me wonder if it is socially acceptable to be a male babysitter because they have not taken over full responsibility and can therefore still be seen as masculine? It seems to me that as the male gains more responsibility and takes over the majority of the care-taking, such as with Mr. Mom, he is seen as emasculated and it becomes less socially acceptable (where would a male nanny fit on this scale?). This could be a question for cultural evolutionists and culture and personality anthropologists alike.

      • Alyssa Janssen says:

        Both Megan and Steve bring up really interesting points regarding who is a “preferable” care taker in contemporary American society. Steve, you brought up the question of whether having a female nanny is more socially desirable than a male one. I babysit all the time and am a nanny over the summer, so I am well aware of the gender bias in the profession. While there are considerably more woman nannies, au pairs and babysitters, I know many families that would prefer a male babysitter and would even pay them more. I have never contrasted that to the stigma associated with “Mr. Mom’s,” and I find it really interesting that male babysitters are so highly sought after while stay-at-home dad’s are often looked down upon. It makes me wonder if it is socially acceptable to be a male babysitter because they have not taken over full responsibility and can therefore still be seen as masculine? It seems to me that as the male gains more responsibility and takes over the majority of the care-taking, such as with Mr. Mom, he is seen as emasculated and it becomes less socially acceptable (where would a male nanny fit on this scale?). This could be a question for cultural evolutionists and culture and personality anthropologists alike.

    • I relate to your experience growing up with an array of nannies. My mother died when I was 8 and my dad was left alone with two daughters. Every day of the week it was a different care taker. We went too years without a mother figure and the women such as our aunts became mothers to me and my sister. When my dad re-married it was hard to accept someone new in our life as a mother figure. I think it would be very interesting too look at the effect on children of having many different mother figures especially not having your biological mother around for a majority of your life.

  2. Maiji Castro says:

    Both of these theories present a valid, interesting arguments for the new phenomenon of the ‘Mr. Mom’ role, but neither of these theories have the ability to account for change. A structural-functionalist anthropologist would look at this change in family role and then see what ‘conflict’ was going on in American society to promote this change. The main ‘conflict’ (that is really just a change) that is going on in modern American society is the rise of women in the work place. Women who bring home the bread have greater education and/or make more money than their spouses, which promotes the stay at home dad. It is also not only the civilian workforce where women are becoming more prominent but the armed services as well. Often the women who decide to join the armed services marry men who can stay at home and look after the children while they are serving their country. Just looking at it through another theory perhaps explains why this phenomenon is happening.

    • Sophia Grenier says:

      You make a valid point there with your discussion of structural-functionalism. I do wonder if women having a greater presence in the workforce is a result of them being more educated than their spouses, or more educated in general. It’s certainly and interesting trend that must be related to education somehow, as (in my experience) social norms tend to change when people are educated.

    • Nick Young says:

      I agree with you Maiji. I know a family that went through a situation similar to what you described. Both parents had jobs, but they agreed that it would be better for their children if one of them could stay at home. The mother had a higher paying job, with more stable hours and better promotion opportunities. They agreed that it would be best if she continued to work, and the husband quit his job and has been a stay at home dad for a few years now. I think within today’s american society, structural-functionalism is the best way to describe this phenomena. Both parent’s are more than capable of taking care of the child and who stays home is simply decided by asking which makes better money.

    • Scout E. says:

      This is an interesting point. I can relate to this because my mom has been a single, working mother ever since I was born. So I think increasing divorce rates also contribute to the rise in “breadwinner” mothers because these mothers simply have no other choice. This is of course assuming that the mother has legal custody of the child after the divorce. I do agree with you that the structural-functionalist theory better accounts for this change in American society. It certainly offers a new, fresh perspective.

  3. Alyssa Ferguson says:

    I think that Megan Salzar makes a good point about the stigmas and norms that the American society has created. Both my mother and father have been very influential in raising me. I do not remember either my mom or dad being the primary care taker. I think that even this is out side the social norm that we see today. The term “trophy wife” has become increasingly popular. These women stay at home and the man provides everything for the family. I think one reason that society looks down on men being stay at home dads is because of the expectations of men to be the “tough one” in the family and its the mans job to provide financially for the family. Men are supposed to do the “dirty work” and used to be looked at as superior to women. Maybe the reason the roles are changing is because women are starting to see equal employment opportunity and they are able to pick the career of their choice.

    • Alana McDowell says:

      Your mention of the term “trophy wife” got me me thinking about the possibility in the future of the term “trophy husband.” At the moment it sounds absurd and comical, but this is only because we’re so used to our own society’s current take on marriage and family.

      As the gap between genders narrows, eventually there may be a point where there is not a real distinction between male and female roles, with regards to who should be the “breadwinner,” who should spend more time raising the kids, etc. When this point comes along, perhaps there will be breadwinning women seeking a trophy husband to stay at home, raise the kids, and impress her friends! Who knows, it’s not so impossible!

      • I have to admit, I did find the thought of a “trophy husband” pretty amusing. Perhaps in time, though, it could indeed work its way into the mainstream. For that to be possible, I think that we as a culture would have to rethink our definitions of not only gender roles, but of beauty. The way we think of those concepts would have to flip entirely!

      • Christopher McKeown says:

        I really like your point here Alana, ‘trophy-husband’ sounds to be a compelling role. I would want to look at this from a functionalists’ standpoint and observe female interpretations of this role. From single women to trophy-husbands, and former couples gaining a Mr. Mom, it would be interesting to see the difference of a martial based family hierarchy form a pre-existing working father figure to a newly acquired trophy. How would these men portrays there roles differently? And how beneficial can a trophy-husband be?

  4. Scott MacDonald says:

    This is definitely an issue of societal norms and cultures’ want to not “stray from the usual” or be “different” (i.e. gay rights or stay-at-home dads). I enjoyed your analysis using culture and personality theory to say the American culture reacted viscerally and were comically amused. It’s amazing how accurate this is! American’s generally react poorly to things they find “odd” (i.e. derogatory name calling and just in general put downs). I know a lot of people who were raised in single parent families (including me) by their dads. They turned out just fine. It doesn’t really matter who raises you as long as the love and compassion of family is there.

    • Sophia Grenier says:

      I think that’s exactly the point; it’s not a biological necessity for the mothers to be primary caregivers, at least not in this day and age. Considering the availability of dietary supplements in modern society, the only thing keeping this from seeming “normal” is society.

    • Hayley Dardick says:

      What I find interesting about the reversal of traditional roles of mothers and fathers is the way society reacts. When a father makes the decision to stay at home and take care of the children, this is seen as comical. He earns the nickname “Mr. Mom” as though people find it humorous for the masculine father to act as the homemaker. When a woman, on the other hand, defies conventional stereotypes and works as the breadwinner of a family, I think people see this as strange and peculiar. I have heard many “jokes” about women and the kitchen and women making sandwiches, but these don’t find humor in the same way that “Mr. Mom” pokes fun at stay at home dads. These comments seem to promote that it is comical, in a cynical way that a woman would think she could stay in the workforce. I think some women are even looked down upon when they decide not to stay at home with their kids full time. It’s as though some people think it is a mother’s inherent duty to raise the kids and that working instead is direct neglect of her rightful role. Maybe I’m off-base though. Do other people think moms in the workforce get more credit for bringing home the bacon or judgement for not staying home to raise their children?

  5. Di Morse says:

    I have some very close friends who were previously practicing this. For the first two years of their child’s life, the dad stayed at home and the mom was the breadwinner. After their kid became old enough for them to be comfortable leaving her at daycare, the dad went back to work. The family is very close, and their daughter is a very affectionate child. From the one instance of this that I’ve seen, dad staying at home has no negative effect on the child’s development. I believe this also applies to same-sex couples raising a children, as long as there is a desire to raise a child, then there is no negative consequence.

    • Alana McDowell says:

      It’s great to hear a positive second-hand account regarding this new trend. I think that it can actually be helpful for a child to be raised primarily by a father or by 2 mothers or 2 fathers, as it gives the child a unique perspective that most others who were raised traditionally may not have. There is opportunity for the child to grow in coming to accept being different and facing different circumstances, and seeing that love is love no matter who is giving it. The parent can also help to clarify any doubts a child might have about his or her family being “abnormal,” and I think it’s important that the parent stresses that one need not fit into society exactly the way everyone else does in order to be accepted and happy.

  6. Brianne Hart says:

    I really enjoyed reading about this topic because a lot of families today are making these kind of gender role switches. I have taken other courses on gender and it’s interesting to note that in some cases when the dad stays at home and the mom goes to work, some marriages experience a strain in their relationship. Men are feeling like they are being emasculated because their wives have become the “breadwinner” of the family, which has typically been the man’s role in society. This feeling of emasculation that some men experience can begin to cause strains on their marriage because some see their wives in more powerful position. Which society has dictated that women are usually in a lower power of position than men. I think switching the gender roles is a really neat trend that begins to break down some of these gender stereotypes and roles in society. This makes me wonder as we get older and start a family, will some of us deviate from gender norms or stick to traditional gender roles?

    • Stephen Fleming says:

      I agree with your point about the man becoming emasculated by the idea of not being the breadwinner, and this could lead to destructive tendencies. Or it could lead to the man improvising with the taking care of the family by: building onto the house or a treehouse, becoming more physically fit. my father for instance for a few years was a stay at home father and during this time the general quality of the house and yard improved, he began to work out, which i sometimes joined – mainly just playing on the yoga balls because i was a child. and becoming Mr. Fixit. in the time when my father was staying at home we never needed to call an electrician, plumber, yard crew, or mechanic. he learn all of these trades and taught them onto me.

  7. Hunter Emmons says:

    This analysis of the disruption of the common binary for parenting was very interesting to me and certainly something that I have thought of before. I am one of the many people who was raised mostly by my mother, whereas my father was the provider of the family. I have oftentimes thought about the person that I would be if it was my father who was raising me, and I feel that it is true that there does not need to be specifically a father or a mother who HAS to be the primary caretaker. I definitely respect fathers who let the mother have the job while he takes care of the kids. This situation, I’m sure, makes many fathers feel emasculated, but it definitely takes a strong person to do this change in gender roles, but why should this matter as long as it works for the family? I definitely think that Brianne Hart’s last question is a great question to answer, and I think that Maiji Castro’s comment on the structural- functionalist point of view would be able to answer this question if it was observed as time goes on.

  8. Abi Peters says:

    I thought the functionalist perspective highlighted one of the main reasons both men and women use to explain why the mother is staying home instead of the father, especially in the first few years of a child’s life. It is true that biologically men cannot produce breast milk. But as is pointed out this should not demising his ability to care for his child in. Families often say they do not want to turn to formula, but with technology like breast pumps, there are ways around it. I think in many ways, the questions of breast milk, is often a convenient (and probably subconscious) excuse to just continue on with the cultural norms we have in America: mom stays home, dad goes to work. I also found the suggestion that there are “favored personality types” according to the culture-personality perspective very compelling as I have a family friend who is a stay at home dad. He has had several experiences in which he has been completely accepted by the other moms at school, until they find out he is not gay. This highlights cultural thoughts that men cannot be caring/engaged in their children’s lives, and further highlights cultural assumptions that gay men must be feminine (which clearly not true).

  9. Ashley Gates says:

    I think it is fascinating to see how our society has so many “Mr. Mom”s in it today. Every time I hear that name I think of the country song that basically describes everything going wrong and praising the mother for how she ever did it all. Whether this song was meant to commend mothers or to help add to that negative connotation of “Mr. Mom” I am not sure of. However I really did like Maiji Castro’s point about the fact that while the two theories highlighter here explain this idea but do not account for change like the Structural-Functionalism can. To expand on the fact that our society is changing and that there is the monumental shift of gender roles I would like to bring another point into the table about Mr. Moms. If we look back in time the two biological parents of children would stay together and fill their respected positions. However, what about in today’s society where we now have step-parents in the picture and small single-parent families combining through marriage. In some scenarios when two single-parent families marry and decide there needs to be a stay-at-home parent whichever parent has the “better” job becomes the breadwinner. Sometimes the other parent stays home full time or only works when the children are at school. With this I am trying to point out that sometimes it is not exactly what the parents would like to do but it is the best option for the family. This can be tied back to Structural-Functionalists’ thoughts because they believe that if one thing changes all the other things around it adjust. In this example if the amount of people living in the household changes and there is a need for a stay at home parent than it is adjusted so that the one who is making more money will take on more weight and support the family. I would love to hear anyone’s comments on this idea.

  10. Drake Williams says:

    I really like your description of “Mr. Mom” in the context of functionalist theory. All humans have the same basic needs but men are unable to provide what used to be a staple for newborns. I think with the advancements of medicine our culture has taken many changes as far as function goes. As you mentioned, though men can’t provide breastmilk for an infant they are still, absolutely, capable of caring for their child, and functionalist theory is the perfect way to back up that claim. Men function in almost the same capacity that women do in child rearing (shown by studies showing that the children of two gay men tend to grow up happier and healthier.)
    When I was growing up my Father retired while my Mother was in fact the bread winner. Although my mom was in charge of child care shortly after my brother and my birth, when my brother and I were spending more time at home with my father after school, and athletics. People would, though not very often, ask why my dad did not work. Until now, I never really considered why I thought this question odd, in my mind my Father’s retirement, and his status as “Mr. Mom,” was the norm. Looking back now, I see these cultural “norms,” and only see the flaws in the almost derogatory “Mr. Mom”

  11. Dakota Mendrick says:

    I loved this essay because I think that men are completely capable of being a “Mr.Mom”! I grew up in a household where my mom mostly took care of me and my dad was working most of the time. In the community where I grew up though, I knew many families that had “Mr. Mom’s” and it was completely normal. Their moms were super successful and the dads did a good job at caring for the kids. On the other hand, cultural evolutionists probably wouldn’t be accepting of how society is welcoming these “Mr. Mom’s”. Since cultural evolutionists only compare cultures on their own ethnocentric viewpoints, they would probably consider this as barbaric. In their eyes, the dad is supposed to go to work while the mom stays home and cooks, cleans, and takes care of the children.

    • Maiji Castro says:

      I agree with you as viewing ‘Mr. Mom’ as an increasingly accepted role in society. In some societies in the United States it is even more acceptable and expected than in others. My family was part of the military for many years, and even though it was my dad who was the one who was the breadwinner, many of my friend’s situations were reversed. In that part of American society it is normal to find that the husband stays home and takes care of the kids, while the wife goes to work. Especially since overseas the spouses cannot even get a job under the visa requirements military personnel and their families travel under. In this specific situation a cultural evolutionist would definitely consider the ‘Mr. Mom’ role savage because they probably would not consider it normal for women to fight for their country, let alone have husbands who were willing to stay home with the kids.

  12. Colton Erickson says:

    I tend to disagree with the idea that a stay at home dad is out of place in American society. My own Dad stayed at home with me and my brother after he retired and my mom continued to work. I’ve also had a few friends whose moms spent more time working than their dads. I also think that it is an increasingly accepted role in a society in which more women are entering the work force than in the past. In my view, functionalism would actually explain the “Mr. Mom” phenomenon as function for taking care of the children and the house after a change in societal norms has lead to the mother working and the father staying at home.

  13. Claire Cohen says:

    It is very interesting to consider gender roles and norms, an aspect of specific culture that many individuals take as universality. Although it may seem that the mother is the most apt for care-giving to us as Americans, some cultures in the world see it as both the woman and man’s equal job to bring up their children. Society has seen a shift towards more women in the workplace, which you reference in your Culture and Personality analysis. This topic could also be addressed from the functionalist perspective, for instance, the emergence of men as the stay at home parent in response to the child’s need for a caretaker. It would also be interesting to see further elaboration as to why a man is equally as apt to take on this role, according to functionalist theory.

  14. Kyle Santi says:

    The Functionalist perspective definitely makes sense. Sometimes, the spouse earning the most money has to be the breadwinner while the other raises the children. Sometimes, that’s the woman. Indeed, it is societal opinions and pressures that determines whether the man or the woman is the one to care for the children. Economics determines who does it, and usually both have to have careers. I’d say the Functionalist view explains this best.

  15. Martha Daley says:

    I found this essay particularly interesting to read. I think it really highlights just how powerful the ingrained gender roles are in our society and just how uncomfortable any deviation from those roles by either sex makes people. In my Physical Anthropology lecture, we were just talking today about how within several species of New World monkeys, especially marmosets and tamarins, the father takes an extremely active role in raising and caring for their children. I find it very interesting that some species of primates to which we are quite genetically similar raise their young in a way we are just now coming around to being more accepting of as a society.

  16. Jacklynn Sanchez says:

    I feel that growing up in our generation was that both parents were working and not one or the other stayed home to take care of the children. I know that in the past the role of the female was a stay at home mom, who did all of the housework and took care of the children, but I know that this was not true for a lot of us growing up. With the rise of feminism I think that a lot of women are now being the ones to go to work everyday instead of staying at home. Even though “equality” is a really big thing here in the U.S., gender roles and norms in and out of the household are subject to change like all other cultural aspects.

  17. Lana Porter says:

    This cultural phenomena is very interesting to me and makes me wonder where this change in gander roles will take in forty to fifty years (same time between now and the beginning of feminism). I think in the 1950’s, men would have been very resistant to staying at home to care for children while their wives worked. It makes me wonder what the causes of men being more willing to “de-masculate’ themselves are. Because more men are willing to make this gender role switch, it makes me thing that this phenomena is a door to more gender equality (or equity) in our country.
    I also think of the history of gender roles in our country and this articles reminds me of World War II when women took over the men’s positions in factories. This proves that women are just as capable of taking on mens positions, but the contemporaries kicked the women out of the factories upon men’s return.

  18. Christopher Sol says:

    This essay is very well written. The idea of Mr. Mom is slowly becoming more and more common and this essay gives great examples of how we would explain this in anthropological view points. This idea’s roots stem from the beginning of the feminist moment in the 20th century and will continue and become a much more accepted role for a man in the future. Both theories are used very well but I think the culture and personality paragraph does an excellent job in explaining the theory and how it relates to “Mr. Mom”. The idea of a stay at home dad was always weird to me but this essay has helped realize that Mr. Mom is not all that weird.

  19. Saskia Newkirk says:

    The ideas explored in this essay are very thought-provoking. I was especially engaged by the ideas brought forth by the author when discussing functionalist approaches to this phenomena. This led me to question what a cultural evolutionist might think of this phenomena. Would the fact that this has a place in contemporary American society signal to a cultural evolutionist that this change in gender roles represents a “civilized” trait present in western cultures? Might it perhaps instead signal to a cultural evolutionist that “civilized cultures” have somehow taken a step backwards on the spectrum of cultural evolution?

  20. Colleen Godfrey says:

    As it was said in “The Man Ring” essay, the United States is a progressively equal society and I think it is important to note the devices that enable this to happen, like artificial milk for infants. Without the production of milk for children some mothers would be forced to take care of their children for a certain amount of time or the fathers would be incapable of caring for them. The “new” milk serves the function of enabling mothers to opt out of postpartum care and allows fathers to take that responsibility on themselves.

  21. Anastasia M. says:

    This is a very interesting topic, and a wonderfully built essay! The stay-at-home-dad concept has been on the rise. This essay and “The Man Ring” essay compliment each other really nicely in their reference to an increasing gender equal society. It is important to acknowledge the fact that it is not necessarily important for the main caregiver to be the female as long as the person fulfills the child’s needs. Gender roles are beginning to deteriorate in the U.S. providing women and men with more opportunities and that is extremely progressive. It is also good news for the feminist movement! I very much appreciate this essay, it is very thought-provoking and inspiring!

    In addition, here is a Macklemore song written about being a stay-at-home-dad:

  22. Rachel says:

    I really liked this topic. I thought it was very interesting to actually bring to light these set gender roles that Americans have about raising children. It is true, for many reasons, that women generally stay home and take care of their children. I think it’s great that more fathers are starting to stay home and rear their children. I feel that it is important for both parents to play a part of a child’s life and too often it seems like the father misses out on watching their child grow. Looking at it with a feministic perspective, It is not to say that the mother would not miss out if she were to be working full time with young children, but too long have we seen women being stuck at home without the capability to pursue a career and have children at the same time. The idea of Mr. Mom seems to be one gaining in popularity and it is a nice change to see in society.

    • McKenzie Ammerman says:

      I agree with you Rachel. I was curious what twist a feminist perspective would put on this situation. The idea of “Mr. Mom” is becoming more and more popular in the United States. Whichever parent can bring home the most money and benefits for their family is more than likely the parent who is working, while the other has the responsibility of taking care of the kids. Stay at home dads are a fairly recent change in society not only because of the general idea that the mom is supposed to be the primary care taker and the dad the “money maker” but also because women now receive equal (or close to it) pay for their professions.

  23. Lauren Wahl says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written essay. The topic of stay-at-home dads isn’t one that is particularly talked about too much, and bringing light to this subject was very enlightening. I thought that both anthropology theories of functionalism and cultural and personality were used very well, and this topic seemed to be perfect to use for both theories. Growing up, my mom stayed home and raised my two brothers and I while my dad went to work every day, which in modern society would be considered normal, or typical, so I never really thought what would my life had been like if my dad raised my brothers and I while my mom went to work. After reading this essay to a group of friends in a study room with me, all of the males in the room said that being a stay-at-home dad would be “awesome”, so I’m glad this essay has swayed many views on the matter.

  24. wasstudent says:

    As a daughter of a stay at home dad I found this article both informative and moving. Gender roles in our society are rapidly changing. Those who strictly agree with the classic Mother and Father responsibilities in child-rearing need to recognize how beneficial it is for a daughter to be raised by a man. My mother was still very present in my life, but having more time with my father gave me an interesting perspective as to what was relevant to me especially as a teen when compared to my female classmates. It’s important to have articles such as this to educate parents stretched on time in alternative methods of raising their children and how there is no correct way, no matter how long one has been in practice.

    -Lucy Johnson

  25. Taylor Rose Martin says:

    This was a very interesting topic for the family! I never thought of stay at home dads before, as I rarely even saw stay at home moms growing up. Your analysis of this topic through functionalist theory was great, I was really happy you included basic needs! Culture and personality was a great theory to analyze as well, as gender roles are changing drastically in the United States every generation. Great interpretations! On the comments above, I thought it was really interested how many of my classmates questioned the gender roles of nannies, babysitters, etc. in raising children. These jobs still seem very feminine in our culture. Do we see a similar shift in these jobs as we do with child rearing? I wonder what basic needs a male nanny would provide over a female nanny? My only critique of this essay is I would have liked a more in-depth explanation of culture and personality theory, but you do a good job interpreting “Mr. Mom” through both “lens.”

  26. Alana Spielman says:

    The culture and personality theory used fits the topic of Mr. Mom very well. This idea challenges years and years of continued expectations between who should stay at home and who should take care of the kids. It is apparent that as times change women are going to school more often and are acquiring jobs before they begin their families. With progressing times, gender roles are becoming intertwined. What was only for men to do, females are challenging and striving for those types of roles. This is also seen as males take over roles that women are usually seen as doing. Times are changing and society is progressing towards an era of being free to fulfill any type of role desired.

  27. Cassidy Reeves says:

    I thought that your essay was awesome at making a statement about alternative childrearing. Growing up both my parents were single parents. Both of them had to stretch their “normal” parenting roles and be “Mr. Mom” and “Mrs. Dad” as well as working and stay-at-home parents. My dad learned how to do my hair and my mom learned to help me navigate sports. People who were unfamiliar with this dynamic quickly judged the situation and felt very concerned that neither one of my parents could fully fulfill my needs.

    I liked your analysis of Mr. Mom through a functionalist and culture/personality perspective. I appreciated that you brought up that biological needs can be satisfied by both parents. This was certainly my experience. Explaining unease at alternative parenting as caused by predetermined culturally roles was also very accurate. People tend to not know how to react when they are confronted by an unfamiliar situation. I think you nailed that gender roles have a big part in this uneasiness. Essays like yours are important in that they bring attention to a phenomenon that stretches our social and cultural ideals. Great work!

  28. Stephanie Grossart says:

    You can also look at this through a courts point of view. Most children go to the mother during a custody battle. Men have always had that role of being the protector and the provider. The woman have always been the caretakers. It is difficult to shift roles when you have learned from your parents what roles you are meant to fulfill. I do not see how a man raising a child would in anyway harm him or her. However, I do believe that it is better to have two parents consisting of two genders. Now I do not mean the parents have to be a male and a female. I simply mean that each parent would be able to provide both sides of parenting. A child must feel protected and provided for but it must also feel love and warmth. As men stay home and more woman work the roles have shifted but the child is still getting what he or she needs from both sides.

  29. Sophia Kolybabiuk says:

    The writer brings up an interesting point in how society views the person fulfilling the dominant role of the family. Equality is a huge part of our life style in America where women and men aren’t obligated to accommodate specific gender roles. I don’t really find it shocking that males take on the role at home of providing for the kids and home care because America has become so accustom to genders not having to permit to a certain role. While in other countries this is a big deal. For instance, in Nepal, if your in your late teens or early twenties and haven’t had a child yet you are considered abnormal and violating the customs of the Nepalese life style which people consider you “unfeminine”. Certain areas of the world have strict customs of fulfilling gender roles and i think that should be mentioned more and used as examples to demonstrate how different regions of the world view their role in life depending what sex they are.

  30. Stephanie Sanchez says:

    This essay was well done. I like the way the you used the culture personality theory and describe culture, “as comically confused”. The idea of a stay-at-home dad is a complete paradigm shift. We can barley grant women maternity leave so this is big. Not only that, but our culture places huge emphasis on women and women taking care of the kids and the house and everything else while the man works. I think this new shift can be related to the recent economic downturn, men lose their jobs so they stay at home and raise the kids while mom works. With this change, the outlook of gender roles slowly changes well. Women are no longer viewed as having two jobs (outside and inside the home) because the men have swapped theirs for one of hers.

  31. Charles Tillinghast says:

    I like how the writer addresses the attitude towards stay at home dads being an uneasy one. My thoughts on this idea of changing gender roles was what happens when the roles are switched in even greater numbers. Would we ever get to the point where it is more masculine to stay at home and take care of the children? What happens when the role of women becomes to provide financially for the family? Personally I do not think this would be the case anytime soon but it is strange and interesting thought.

  32. Ellis Hughes says:

    It is a very thought-provoking concept to consider how a sudden shift in gender roles can create such unease. In the most basic sense, this shouldn’t be an issue. Yet because our gender roles have been, for the most part, continually reinforced through generation after generation, this slight change isn’t actually slight at all. It just goes to show how deeply connected we are to our own cultural rules as individuals. Theoretically, these are simply arbitrary rules originating from old ideals that have carried throughout societal history. But in reality, these rules are built into us, learned by our experience, which ties into the culture and personality theory. Even the slightest change could be met with significant resistance.

  33. Amanda Brennan says:

    Your analysis on “Mr. Mom” is very insightful on how the idea of a stay-at-home dad is becoming more common in today’s society, but not necessarily being more accepted yet. From an “Armchair” anthropologists perspective, the idea of a stay-at-home dad is barbaric and completely opposite from the normal, accepted way of life. American history has always been that the male is the main provider and head of the household/family. This mainly entails financial care. The reasoning for this includes biology (mother’s are more instinctual when caring for children like the breast milk reference from the post) and tradition which was influenced by European culture when they first began settling in the Americas. Although there may be father’s beginning to question the norm more than previous years, it still seems like a custom that is far from becoming popular.

  34. Miles Agan says:

    I enjoyed reading this essay and I think it would be interesting to look at this phenomena from a structural-functionalism view because the family ideology has and will continue to change over time. Our cultural ideals and the beliefs behind those are rapidly changing as more information is becoming available, and in turn, people are becoming more accepting of non-traditional lifestyles. It shouldn’t matter if the mother is the “breadwinner” and the father stays at home with the kids, all families and and couples have unique dynamics. In this day and age, women, on average, still make less money than men do per year. When the equality of men and women in the economic system is not recognized fully, then it may make other socially constructed ideologies easier to believe amongst the public sphere.

  35. Scout E. says:

    This was a great piece! You hit on some really interesting points that are not necessarily talked about much in American society. I think there is a sense of discomfort when someone mentions that they have a stay at home dad. For me, and for a lot of people I imagine, are a little surprised to hear that. But I do think that there is a sense of discomfort when someone mentions that they have a single mother that has raised the child since infancy. This happens to be my case. Most people are surprised to learn this, probably because they think it’s weird that my mom could raise me all by herself and still be financially stable. I also think surprise is a popular reaction because mothers are not typically the “breadwinners” for the family. I think this is a factor of how the social roles of mother and father are portrayed in America. Though these roles are certainly changing, stereotypes are not. Typically the father is seen as the “breadwinner” and the mom also as the “breadwinner,” but more primarily the caregiver of a newborn child. I think it would be interesting to use the two theories you used to obtain a deeper understanding of how family roles are becoming more dynamic and less static.

  36. Jon Mastman says:

    This was a very interesting essay to read because of how rapidly fast the “stay at home dad” population is increasing. Especially since the market crash, when some families are lucky to have just one parent working, it is becoming a greater occurrence that the wife becomes the “breadwinner” and the “man of the house” suddenly becomes “mr. mom”. This can be seen in the market as more and more cook books and other domestic based merchandise become available either targeting or partially targeting this new consumer base. Though this may be happening now, it is new and not firmly entrenched in society, in fact it is often scorned. Whether or not this trend is here to stay is an intriguing concept, but if it does it only broadens our culture.

  37. Brianna Larkin says:

    Reading this essay I kinda wanted more to read on it. It’s one of the more hushed down topics to talk about in modern day society. It’s always interesting looking at different points of views and what other people think. A lot of people that I have talked to most of them, they are set in where they stand. I have found that a lot of guys think it’s just wrong to stay home, and watch the kids. They are almost baffled at the idea that the roles of man and women can be switched. I wonder by taking a pole on what people think, how many of them would think it’s socially accepted to be a stay a home dad or working mom.

  38. Danielle Maxey says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the phenomenon on stay at home dads. While I haven’t met very many stay at home dads, I have heard a few men from my generation say that they would love to be stay at home dads while their wives work and I know a lot of women who say they want a career first and don’t see themselves giving it up in the future. It is interesting to see this switch in roles along with how the definition of “family” seems to be changing in American society. I don’t think that it is as out of place as it definitely was in previous generations though. While it is still not the norm, and it seems more people are accepting that families are not structured the same as they have been in the past.

  39. Hannah Hilden-Reid says:

    Having grown up in a family in which my mom was the breadwinner I found this essay very relatable. I always enjoyed how my family differed from the “norm”. This essay does a great job communicating the the very real changes that are occurring with every new generation. With each generation comes (for the most part) a more progressive view on gender roles. Slowly the importance and prominence of gender roles are dissipating.

  40. I think that with changing times comes changing points of view, and the social stigmas in American of who is better suited to raise a child is situational. Growing up both my parents worked, but took turns throughout my teenage years of who was at home more. I had both of my parents raise me with the same moral and agreed methods of raising me and my siblings only in different manners. Situations were handled differently according to which one of my parents were present, this how ever had no effect on whether or not my siblings and I were raised “correctly.” Both theories apply to the new up and coming dynamics of families and was written well!

  41. Alexandra Sapien says:

    I think you used the functionalist theory really well because along with how we can view the father position as caretaker we are forced to contrast the mothers roll as the one who supplies financial stability for the family. Observing these reversed gender rolls is an interesting thing especially when in this day and age there are still cultures that still don’t even let woman in the room when men are discussing things. It does a fantastic job of highlighting a woman’s new role in american society of CEO’s or business leaders. As well as showing that men can be just as nurturing and caring as mothers.

  42. Sam Calahan says:

    In addition to Functionalist and Culture/Personality theories, I think Cultural Evolution is particularly relevant to this topic. Cultural Evolution’s origins are steeped in ethnocentrism and bigotry, but I think this is one case to which it can be applied that exhibits not ethnocentrism, but cultural relativism – in this case, by regarding the cultures of men and women as equal. The “Mr. Mom” phenomena shows that men and women are becoming more equal and that we don’t have to be limited by our former biological tendencies and, especially, assumptions about them. The fact that women seeking jobs and leaving the husband at home to take care of the kids is becoming more commonplace indicates that it is also becoming more accepted, a transition that most would surely classify as progress.

  43. Gabe DuPont says:

    This is an intriguing topic. With growing population of women in the work force, this “Mr. Mom” trend is not likely to disappear anytime soon. While I liked the theories you used in you blog, I think a cultural evolutionist theory would have an interesting route you could’ve taken. Does this culture trend make us more savage? Or perhaps more civilized? All in all, this was a great blog and a very interesting topic. Good job!

  44. Matt Kiriazis says:

    Feminist anthropology might have an interesting take on this. I think that “Mr. Mom”‘s stigmatization would illuminate the sexist and patriarchal oppression that sanctions the gender roles being performed only within the structure’s defined norms.

  45. Elliott Cairns says:

    Stays at home dads are breaking family norms that have been concrete and established in US society. It has always been expected that while men work to support the family, the household and child-rearing responsibilities would be assumed by the mother. This breaking from traditional values and the unease that follows is normal but as more fathers decide to stay home with their kids these ideas can be dismissed. I would love to be a stay at home dad personally because of the more time spent with your children as well as the freedom to do any projects. Men as homemaker’s should not be stigmatized by society but embraced and supported.

  46. Autumn says:

    A theory one should think about on the topic of stay-at-home mothers and fathers is Feminist theory. I believe it would lead to an intriguing viewpoint. Also, why is it that supposedly women are better mothers based on the fact they can produce breast milk? Especially now days people are starting to use bottled milk. However another point that crossed my mind was income. while we all applaud fathers for staying at home with their children and proving how great they can be, women still make less money than men. So just a mother working would be harder to provide for the family as opposed to the father working while the mother stayed home.

  47. Megan Salzer says:

    Through the feminist perspective, one could observe the gendered norms and expected professions of men versus women. Both my parents worked at the same company and met at a conference, but when they married and had my sister, brother, and I, they both continued working and found a nanny to take care of us. While this might challenge expectations of a mother needing to stay at home to take care of her children, my sister, brother, and I never felt as though we were missing out by having a working mother. If anything it was in a sense better because we viewed our nanny more like a big sister than a mother figure, so we could get away with almost anything. I also think it was interesting that when my sister and I were around 12 and our brother was 7 or 8, my parents hired a male nanny or as we called him “manny”. It seemed as though people were more comfortable with having a female nanny for children rather than a male one. I understand that in our society we have specific gendered norms, but if it is not the mother staying at home, would we be more comfortable with the father staying at home before the family found help?

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